From Church Bells to Adhan – 2
This is the seventh day since the first Adhan in Cedar-Riverside. The posts on Facebook of that historic evening have slowed, but they are still being shared and commented on. Muslims, especially from Somalia and East Africa around the world have seen videos of the evening.
There is an image from that evening that I can’t get out of my head. It is the gentleman who was standing in the same area of the parking lot I was standing in. He was there when I arrived and stayed in the exact same place the whole time. He didn’t move. I may have known him, but his mask left me uncertain.
It was cold that evening. He was wearing the long robe men wear for special occasions with a warm jacket over it. He had on the cap that is common among men. I think he had henna on his beard, but maybe I just assumed it. He was facing the mosque, towards the men’s and women’s doors, and the general direction of where the speakers were placed on the roof. Almost towards Mecca, but not quite. And he didn’t move.
At one point I said hello and commented that this was a wonderful day and he replied yes, it is. Somehow though, I knew that would be the extent of our conversation that evening. Not because he may have had limited English and not because he was rude or shy. It is quite possible he hadn’t heard Adhan outside, for decades, since whenever it was that he left Somalia. If he had heard it during a visit in Somalia or one of the two times it was broadcast in Cedar-Riverside for small gatherings over the past two years, this would be the first time he would be able to hear Adhan five times a day for the holy month of Ramadan in his home, in the neighborhood where he lives.
I wish I could have heard his story. I would have loved to ask what this evening was like for him. He was so focused, almost in another time and space, it seemed to me. It was not my place to interrupt that.
So, we stood there, more than six feet apart, masked and gloved, and listened.
I can’t presume to know what he was thinking or feeling in that parking lot that evening. I assume he understood the words that were chanted and spoken. I could not. Either way, it was a powerful moment. Certainly, for him. For me, too. And for all those gathered.
Sometimes there are moments that are bigger than words. This was one of them.
©Jane Buckley-Farlee, 2020. All rights reserved
One of my favorite childhood memories is the time each summer I stayed with my Grandma in Reedsburg, a small town in Wisconsin. Every day, 4 times a day, one of the churches’ bells would ring out the time. Back then the town was small enough that you could hear the bell throughout the whole town. I’m pretty sure the bell that rang was from my Grandma’s church, where my family would attend when we were in town. In fact, I would go with my Grandma when she was on the Altar Guild and as they prepared the church for Sunday I would hang out in the Chancel. I sometimes wonder what part that played in my calling to become a pastor.
To this day, when I hear a church bell announcing the time of the day, I get a warm, fuzzy feeling. I’m sure it is, in part, left over from those idyllic days when I was young.
Yesterday was the beginning of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month similar to Lent. It is a time of prayer, good deeds, fasting, and spiritual reflection. It is a time for Muslims around the world to be more intentional than usual in living out their faith through loving others and showing mercy and kindness to others.
During Ramadan Muslims fast from sunrise to sunset. This can be particularly challenging in the Northern Hemisphere during the summer months where fasting can last 18 hours. But even without that added challenge, Muslims find community and encouragement in knowing that others are fasting and praying at the same time. And, of course, the breaking of the fast each evening with an Iftar with family and friends is an especially joyful time for everyone.
This year with COVID-19 and social distancing, the mosques are closed and people are left with praying alone at home and eating at the end of the day without their family and friends. A time that should filled with joy will be much lonelier this year.
But in Minneapolis, Mayor Jacob Frey saw the wisdom of allowing Adhan to be broadcast out loud in Cedar-Riverside during Ramadan. Cedar-Riverside is home to the largest concentration of Somalis outside of Somalia. When he was asked by CAIR-MN and Dar Al-Hijrah to waive a city noise ordinance for this holy month, he agreed. For the first time in Minnesota history Adhan will be heard throughout Cedar-Riverside 5 times a day, this year April 24 through May 24.
Yesterday evening was the first Adhan of 2020. Imam Sharif had invited me to come. I had mixed feelings about going given social distancing and all. I also didn’t want to miss this for almost anything. It was an honor to be there.
People were milling around, visiting and waiting. Face masks were being handed out. People were reminding each other to stay apart. Different media outlets were interviewing and commenting on this historic moment. People in Somalia were seeing this moment live.
When the time for prayer came the speakers on the roof of Dar Al-Hijrah sent out Adhan. Silence immediately settled on all who had gathered. Cell phones were held up and recording. And we listened. I don’t know long it lasted, but the silence held. Imam Sharif said a few words and a short call and response kind of litany came from the people twice. And then everyone left, heading for home for prayers and a meal.
I felt those warm fuzzies again. I could only imagine what it was like for the people gathered. For some, this was the first time in decades they were able to hear Adhan outside since they left their home in Somalia.
It is hoped that hearing Adhan will relieve some of the loneliness that will be even more profound during this month of gatherings and Iftars. It is hoped it will make the social distancing easier to maintain.
One thing I know – I’ll be going back to the neighborhood from my makeshift office at home to hear Adhan more than once in the days to come. Not for the warm fuzzies. Warm fuzzies are nice, but too temporary. I’ll be going to hear, along with my Muslim brothers and sisters, a reminder of God’s greatness and bigness. A reminder that we are all created by God, that we are all in this, all of this life together.
Original Journal entry date: 4/24/20
©Jane Buckley-Farlee, 2020. All rights reserved.
I have been annoyed lately. But, not by what you might expect. Sure, I didn’t like it when the woman who should have known better came and stood right next to me as I watched a muskrat at Lake of the Isles. And I miss friends and connecting with colleagues. And I miss Sunday worship. And I wish my two sons were closer. And everything is harder now. And , its exhausting. And, and, and…..
I have been annoyed by something else and I have hesitated to say it. It won’t sound very nice, certainly not Minnesota Nice. Please don’t think I am judging or not appreciative. But this is what has been annoying me.
I have been annoyed by all of the well-wishes. All of the sharing of thoughts and prayers. All of the Bible quotes whether they are meant to be condemning or comforting. All of the scurrying about to get everything done right. I have been annoyed by the wondering about what we will all learn from this. And by the comment that everything will be different when this of over. And I’m annoyed by hearing and saying we’re managing, so far, and adjusting. And I have done them all (except the Bible verses).
Like I said, I hesitate to bring this up. I have, in fact, been comforted, inspired, and educated by some of these things. But it is still not a nice kind of thing to admit.
I couldn’t get past feeling bad about being annoyed until I read the Gospel reading for this past Sunday, March 29, the story of Jesus raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:1-45). What struck me in that story was that Jesus, after hearing that Lazarus was sick, waited two whole days before leaving for Bethany. He got there four days after Lazarus had died, long enough for Lazarus to stink. What was that about?
I don’t know. But apparently it was OK with Jesus for all those he knew, all of those he loved, to have to wait. It was OK with Jesus for everyone to have to sit with, to be in the discomfort, the fear, the grief, the worry. Jesus felt no urgency to do something. To fix everything. To make people less uncomfortable.
Maybe it’s OK for us to sit with, to be in the discomfort, the fear, the grief, the worry. Not forever. Not ignoring immediate crises. But, maybe it’s OK to be uncomfortable with everything for a while. Maybe it has to be.
We’re at the very beginning of this. I know I can’t wonder what we’ll all learn from this when I’m not even sure what this is yet.
One thing I can do is to try to sit with and be in and acknowledge the discomfort, the fear, the grief, the worry. If Jesus thought that was OK for everyone then, maybe it is OK for me, too. Maybe it’s OK for all of us. It’s even OK to be annoyed.
Original Journal Entry date: 4.1.20
© 2020 Jane Buckley-Farlee. All rights reserved.